Back in July this year a fellow reviewer went along to Z-Arts in Manchester to watch a production of Hot Mikado by Manchester Musical Youth (MMY). When they posted their review, which is the 7th most popular we’ve ever posted on this site and I read it, such was the praise and admiration for what they saw I knew I had to see MMY on stage for myself.

As a reviewer I try not to get excited or build up expectations before I see a production, as a show not living up to those expectations can be a huge let down. However, the more I have learnt and seen online from MMY I simply couldn’t supress my expectations on this occasion, and boy they surpassed them!

Manchester Musical Youth are celebrating their 1st anniversary by holding a concert featuring the academy members and a whole host of musical theatre songs. Founded by husband and wife team Dave and Kimberly Holden, the aim of the group is to bring together and develop the most talented 10-19 years olds in the Greater Manchester area so they can experience the highest, most professional standard of musical theatre outside the West End. I am told there is a waiting list to become a member of the group.

Opening the show to a packed audience MMY first performed ‘One Short Day’ from Wicked. From the opening note I knew I was going to be in for an amazing night’s entertainment. The harmonies and clarity of their delivery was without fault. Lizzie Parkinson played a rather convincing drunk Mrs Hannigan as she performed ‘Little Girls’ from Annie and Jake Hankey took on the role of Danny Zuko singing ‘Those Magic Changes’ from Grease.

The audience had their hearts melted as the youngest members of the group took centre stage to sing ‘April Shower’ from Bambi. For me this was a highlight of the evening to see a group so young so confident in their performance and controlled with their voices. If they are the future of MMY I am going to be returning year after year after year!

Niamh Mulvihill and David Beeby very nearly stole the show as they performed the comical ‘Mix Tape’ from Avenue Q to a rapturous response from the audience before Joe Dillon and Joel Pendleton led the entire ensemble in closing the first half with the emotional yet rousing ‘The Old Red Hills of Home’ from Parade.

Act two began with a powerful version of ‘Seasons of Love’ from Rent featuring the entire academy which seemed to signal a shift up in the gears of the show. As amazing as the first half was, nothing quite prepared me for the second.

Kyra Ho (write that name down and look out for her on the West End stage in future years) performed a perfect version of ‘Movie in My Mind’ from Miss Saigon. The emotion and power she gave to the performance was faultless. This lady is guaranteed to be a star of the future.

Chris Wagstaff followed leading the entire ensemble in ‘Memphis Lives in Me’ from Memphis with Wagstaff displaying some powerful vocals. This first section was brought to a close by Izzy Cross, Eve Rowan and Sara Nelson singing ‘It’s Tuesday’ from Shrek. All three of these young ladies acted and sung the piece with a passion which was repaid by the audience with likewise applause.

Before the finale director Dan Jarvis explained about an experiment they were trying, Boys v Girls!

Each performed a comical musical number with the boys singing ‘Officer Krupke’ from West Side Story led by Joe Morgan. Morgan was thrown around the stage during the number whilst impressively continuing to sing in what was a complicated choreographed scene.

The girls took on ‘Raise Your Voice’ from Sister Act. An equally complicated scene which was led by Abigail Harper who embraced the energy from the film and proved a more than worthy match for Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris. So who won? I shall remain impartial at this point, but say that there were more girls than boys, however the boy’s song was physically stronger!

As in every great concert there has to be great music. Tonight was no exception as the 8 piece band, all of whom had given their time free of charge to support MMY, proved as faultless as the cast

This website, North West End was set up to promote and review both professional and amateur theatre on an equal footing without prejudice. MMY proved tonight just why we made this decision. Each and every member are a credit to their founders Dave and Kimberly Holden and to the directors Dan Jarvis and Ellie Whitfield. They have truly blurred the lines between professional and amateur.

Reviewer: Paul Downham

Reviewed: 17th October 2015